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Arkansas hosts Georgia in SEC middle-class contest

The No. 25 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (18-8, 7-7 SEC) head to Fayetteville to face the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-11, 6-8 SEC). With the SEC tournament fast approaching, which squad can grab the victory and, just as importantly, some positive momentum ahead of an undoubtedly tough conference tourney?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 Womens - Georgia at Ole Miss
Can the Georgia Lady Bulldogs establish momentum ahead of the SEC tournament with a win at Arkansas?
Photo by Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since their triumphant takedown of the then-No. 2 (and now-No. 3) NC State Wolfpack, the No. 25 Georgia Lady Bulldogs have failed to topple another currently ranked opponent, instead too-often falling to unranked teams below them in the SEC standings.

Although Joni Taylor’s Lady Dawgs should not be severely disappointed with competitive losses to the Tennessee Lady Vols and LSU Tigers (twice), dropped games to the Florida Gators (then unranked but now ranked No. 15) and Auburn Tigers — both which they led somewhat comfortably deep into the second half — should sting. The Lady Dawgs thus sit at sixth in the SEC standings at 7-7 in conference play.

The Arkansas Razorbacks, currently in a four-way tie for seventh in the SEC with a 6-8 conference record, profile as the type of team that could again cause Georgia to stumble. The two middle-of-the-pack SEC teams meet on Thursday night in Fayetteville at 8 p.m. ET (SEC Network+).

The Hogs’ season has been understandably uneven, as this year’s team lacks the talent and experience of last season’s squad. However, Arkansas still is spunky, handing a loss to LSU in late January and then taking Tennessee to overtime the following game. On Tuesday night, they battled Ole Miss in Oxford before ultimately suffering their third-straight defeat. Back at home on Thursday evening, expect the Razorbacks to be motivated to avoid sliding into a four-game losing streak, which would be their longest stretch of consecutive losses this season.

As Georgia and Arkansas are stylistic and strategic contrasts, the team that can determine the pace of play should have the advantage.

The second-highest scoring team in the SEC at 74.9 points per game, an uptempo contest would favor the Razorbacks. Mike Neighbors’ team, once again, is not shy about letting it fly from deep. The Hogs are first in the conference in 3-point attempts (25.9 per game), hitting 33 percent from range. Redshirt senior guard Amber Ramirez leads this behind-the-arc attack. She has fired off the second most triples in the SEC, swishing a spectacular 42.5 percent of her sometimes absurdly-difficult attempts.

The Lady Dawgs average only 69.7 points per game. They are instead fueled by their defense, using their aggression to frustrate opponents with deflections, steals and blocked shots. Because the Georgia offense can stagnate in the half court, turning stops and turnovers into transition points is a necessary source of offense. As a team, the Dawgs average 14.7 “stocks” per game, with 5.8 blocks, led by graduate center Jenna Staiti’s 2.1, and 8.9 steals, led by graduate guard Que Morrison’s 2.0.

Will Georgia’s D be able strangle Arkansas’ offense? Or, will the Hogs stroke the nets and stymie the Dawgs?

Game information

Arkansas Razorbacks (16-11, 6-8 SEC) vs. No. 25 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (18-8, 7-7 SEC)

When: Thursday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR

How to watch: SEC Network+

Key to the matchup: Samara Spencer is establishing herself as Arkansas’ next, dangerous super scorer. Or, maybe she already is a certified offensive engine? The freshman guard, who has been named SEC Freshman of the Week four times this season, is averaging 12.3 points per game. Over the past month, she has scored in double figures in eight of nine games, highlighted by 22 points on the road against Missouri last week. On Tuesday, she dropped 19 points on Ole Miss, adding six boards and five assists. If Spencer extends her upward offensive trajectory, her contributions could help the Arkansas offense gain the edge over the Georgia defense.

Highlight: Samara Spencer glides to the basket for a bucket